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Hamlet
BLU-RAY disk
09.30.2010 By: Chris Bumbray
Hamlet order download
Director:
Kenneth Branagh

Actors:
Kenneth Branagh
Derek Jacobi
Julie Christie
Kate Winslet

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Suspecting his father, the king, of being murdered by his villainous Uncle Claudius (Derek Jacobi)- who’s now usurped the throne, as well as the Queen (Julie Christie)- Prince Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh) plots vengeance.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Something is rotten in Denmark, and nobody’s going to be this sweet prince goodnight! Ok, sorry- I can’t help but think of Arnold Schwarzenegger saying “to be or not to be…not to be” in LAST ACTION HERO. But alas, Arnie is no Kenneth Branagh (nor the reverse), and in the fourteen years since its release, Branagh’s HAMLET remains the definitive version of Shakespeare’s oft filmed tragedy. Boasting a healthy budget, Branagh was able to film the entire text (meaning a four hour running time), and shoot the entirety of the film in 65mm, for theatrical display in 70MM- the last film to date to hold that distinction.

Visually, HAMLET is a feast, and the epic is so beautifully crafted, it’s no wonder Marvel hired Branagh to shoot the upcoming THOR. If he’s able to give it the same epic feel as we have here, then we’re in good hands.

For the most part, HAMLET is a flawless adaptation of the play. Branagh is exceptional, as is Jacobi (who likely sprang from his mother’s womb quoting Shakespeare) and the rest of the English cast including an impossibly young Kate Winslet as Orphelia (this was done one year before TITANIC). My only issue with the film is the numerous cameos by American stars of the day, including Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Gérard Dépardieu (to be fair, a Frenchman playing a Frenchman- so it fits). All of them are fine actors, but they do NOT belong here. This is evident from the first scene where Lemmon appears as the captain of the guard. In just about everything he ever did, Lemmon was brilliant, but here he just does not belong- nor do any of the other “stars”. Williams and Crystal chew the scenery mercilessly in their tiny roles- and its bits like this that distract from an otherwise sumptuous film.
THE EXTRAS
Presented in a book-style digipak, we get a nice thirty-two page examination of the film that looks a lot like an old fashioned program you'd get a roadshows of 70MM films like this.

On this disc itself, we get a four hour commentary by Branagh and Shakespearean expert Russell Jackson. Next up, an introduction by Branagh in HD, a vintage promo from Cannes , the trailer , and a thirty minute documentary about the making of the film.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
My dislike of the stunt casting of minor roles aside, Branagh’s HAMLET is still a classic, and the definitive version of the bard’s oft told tale. Not Shakespeare buffs will find it hard to sit through the lengthy four hour running time, but to those inclined to like this sort of thing- you’ll be in heaven.
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9:36AM on 09/30/2010
Actually, it's spelled Gérard Depardieu. And he's French, not American. Otherwise, good review! I'll actually go ahead and see this film sometime, now.
Actually, it's spelled Gérard Depardieu. And he's French, not American. Otherwise, good review! I'll actually go ahead and see this film sometime, now.
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